The Duke and The King

duke and king live

The Duke and The King is the undertaking of Simone Felice (of The Felice Brothers) and his friends Robert Chicken Burke and (Black Jim) Nowell Haskins. The band name comes from the Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, the album title from a Robert Frost poem of the same name and the inspiration from a dark, emotionally heavy winter in which Simone lost a baby girl to a miscarriage.

After seeing Simone live with his brothers several times, I expected to hear lyrics full of boozin’, gamblin’, cheatin’ and stealin’, backed by loosely played instruments and booze-drenched raucous energy. To my surprise, what I heard on Nothing Gold Can Stay was quite the opposite. Perhaps a nod to Twain and Frost, The Duke and The King let extraordinary, and very personal songwriting take center stage with a delivery that will appeal to any Cat Stevens fan.

Since I’m an honest guy, I will say that I first thought this album was a snoozer. But I kept listening. I’ve been flying cross country once a month and without thinking about it, would click through my iPod library and land on The Duke and The King – over and over again. It’s one of those albums that seeps into your skin and manifests itself through unintentional humming. If you’re looking for some songs to sample, try If You Ever Get Famous, The Morning I Get To Hell, Water Spider and One More American Song.

MySpace | Ramseur Records

The Duke and The King – If You Ever Get Famous

Video: The Duke and The King – The Morning That I Get To Hell (Kitchen Rehearsal)

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The Duke And The King

At SxSW, I spoke to James Felice briefly and asked why Simone (the drummer Felice Brother that sounds like Cat Stevens) was absent from the band. He said something about him not being able to make the trip and then we moved on to some other topic, like how great ice cold beer tastes.

I know we’ve got some Felice Brothers fans out there, so this may be old news to you. I just read it the other day and thought I’d share. Here’s the news, as written by Simone Felice in an open letter:

Dear Friends and Family, this is just a little note to show my deepest gratitude for all the letters and concern I’ve received over my absence from The Felice Brothers stage over the past few months, and for the boundless love and belief you’ve shown for our music over the years.

This winter has been a time of tragedy, sadness, and regeneration in my life. I’d been working on a new book and recording some songs with my dear old friend Robert close to home in the Catskill Mountains and my long time love and I were expecting our first child. Then in late January out of the blue we lost our baby girl and it really broke my heart and turned my world inside out. In the process of mourning it helped a lot to turn some of the sorrow and revelation into songs and after a while I came back to Robert and I’s cabin/studio to put them down and to finish the other recordings we started.

I’ve been writing a lot this past year, and seeing as my role in the band was always more of a supportive one (helping with lyrics, drumming, harmonies and the occasional lead vocal) I’ve been compelled to find a vehicle that would help me be able to share all these new songs and stories. So I hope you like The Duke & The King, the songs mean a lot to us, being as they are, after all, the soundtrack of a long fateful winter. We’ll be playing a handful of debut shows come spring, and I’ll be working on finishing the novel and spending more time close to home. The boys have a couple great drummers working with them now (chief among them our close friend Jeremy ‘The Searcher’ who’s produced all our records and was one of my most important drum teachers in the long ago, and Dave, an awesome young hitter who I’ve had the privilege of working with this spring to pass on some of the stank codes of our tradition), and they all have a very strong and dynamite vision of how to carry the music and poetry we’ve all made together into the future. I’ll be making special appearances at Felice shows from time to time to share the stage with my brothers as they support ‘Yonder Is The Clock’ and beyond, something I look forward to with an earnest and warm heart.

It’s very nice that I can be candid in sharing these heavy life changes with you guys, though the comfort I feel in doing so is no surprise considering how loving and supportive you’ve been in helping us build this big old crazy family together, a family as sacred as it is rowdy! Please know that it really is you all who’ve made this never-ending story of ours possible, and that this knowledge has never and will never be lost on me.

All my love and a thousand thanks always, Simone.

Songs: Illinois posted the first mp3 from Simone’s new project, The Duke and The King. Head over there to hear “If You Ever Get Famous” or visit the band on MySpace to hear more.

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